Snowdrops at Thenford, Northamptonshire


The topiary-lined rill


Thenford gardens and arboretum are seldom open to the public so it was a privilege indeed to be able to take a look around the gardens in winter to admire the 555 varieties of snowdrops.

Gardener Emma Thick (known on Twitter as the snowdrop lady) is an extraordinary galanthophile, so committed to her little snowdrops that she wears a hat decorated with snowdrop blooms and has a snowdrop named after her.  Emma revealed that the collection at Thenford is possibly the largest naturalistic collection of snowdrop varieties.  The snowdrops are planted in carefully labelled clumps in a woodland setting, although there are sadly no enormous drifts of white to be seen.

The mossy roots of the great Ash where the first snowdrops were planted in 1989

The collection was started in 1989 by garden owners Anne and Michael Heseltine with the first clumps planted around the mossy roots of an enormous ash tree.  Snowdrops have naturalised happily at Thenford due to the near-perfect conditions; moist but well-drained shady soil.

The magnificent snowdrop theatre

A glorious snowdrop theatre is situated in one corner of the immaculate walled garden where  prized specimens are housed in antique terracotta pots although we did spot a rogue Leucojum which Emma is also fond of, although, she pondered that as there are only about 10 known species of Leucojum they would be marginally easier to collect!

The fountain and knot garden with G. ‘James Backhouse’ in pots.

A Tazza fountain and knot garden mark the entrance to the sculpture garden, where beech and yew hedging divides a series of garden corridors and rooms, each revealing a sculpture or two.  The sculpture garden at Thenford is famous for housing the enormous head of Lenin, taken from Latvia after the fall of communism.  I was particularly looking forward to seeing this and was not disappointed; the sheer scale of the bust is quite unexpected and a huge contrast to the other pieces which included a delightful rolling pony (displaying his crown jewels) and a minotaur doing much the same thing.


Elsewhere, other pieces are positioned to complement the garden.  At the head of the long rill is a mosaic scallop shaped pool and in the woodland beside the ponds, a stone arch which was sourced in Burgundy and painstakingly reassembled in the Thenford garden.

So finally, back to the snowdrops.  The three images above show the variety of shapes and sizes, clearly showing that indeed snowdrops do not ‘all look the same’! I particularly liked the ones in the centre, ‘Walrus’ their name given due to their tusky outer petals.


Snowdrops overlooked by two lion statues that formerly stood in the House of Commons

As we were at Thenford primarily for the snowdrops we were unable to see the entire garden which I have enjoyed reading about in the book ‘Thenford, the creation of an English Garden’ by Michael and Anne Heseltine. The book is available to buy on Amazon, the link can be found here.   The garden is open on selected days, click here for details of 2018 openings.





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